Friday, October 12, 2007

Does the Precautionary Principle Cover Actual Problems?

Robert Mayer at Publius Pundit has these thoughts on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore. His basic point, if I understand it clearly, is that in an era of pressing world problems, the Peace Prize has been awarded for symbolic gestures. The Nobel citation is nothing for something that's already happened. It's for the achievement of preventing something that could, possibly happen in the future if a certain climate model is correct.

Indications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries.

But what about large-scale migration now? What about competition for resources now? What about burdens being borne by vulnerble countries now with clear and proximate causes? Must the World remain silent on those issues because taking them up may be contentious or hard or actual? As Robert Mayer puts it:

Yet one cannot help but be unimpressed with this, when truly the door is still open on his major platform: global warming. I simply cannot fathom the idea of spending trillions of dollars in the hope that we humans can lower the temperature of the earth when those trillions of dollars can fuel research and technologies that, despite whatever happens outside our control, will improve the overall human condition regardless. I'm talking about technologies that can better conserve and distribute water and create more of it. It can also be invested in education. If we really have to water our lawns as often as we do (well, I live in Arizona now, where colored rock lawns have been popularized), could it hurt to let people know to do it at night? Can't we teach our children by example and just turn the faucet off?

So I must say that I must agree with Czech President Vaclav Klaus -- the reasons for giving Al Gore the peace prize for his work on global warming is unclear and indistinct. He has raised awareness of an issue that itself is rather unclear and indistinct when there are plenty of climate and environmental issues that can actually be solved without the need to put civilization on hold.

My suggestion is that the Nobel Committee, if it really wants to prevent future wars that occur because of climate change, the environment, water, or what have you, is to offer the peace prize up as much like the X Prize which has shot the space tourism industry into orbit. For example: the $1.5 million dollar prize will go to whoever can develop a new desalination process that is cheaper and more effective than those currently in existence. Trillions of dollars in economic losses due to Al Gore's prescription is ridiculous compared to the $1.5 million it would take to unleash human potential all over the world in developing new technologies to deal with these problems.


Blogger PierreLegrand said...

Consensus of scientific opinion is that making policy based on consensus is not brilliant…hmm

Global Warming is a scam and its poetic that Gore is its leading proponent.

10/12/2007 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Bob Hawkins said...

Has anyone else noticed that, if you apply the precautionary principle to the precautionary principle, it tells you not to apply the precautionary principle to anything else?

10/12/2007 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger eddie said...

Anyone wonder what happens as an ICE age ends? Hmmmm, let me think about that for 3 seconds....oh yea the planet warms up, just before the next Ice age. It's all part of the Hate America, hate yourself mantra of leftist lunatics. As you said "Trillions of dollars in economic losses due to Al Gore's prescription is ridiculous compared to the $1.5 million it would take to unleash human potential all over the world in developing new technologies to deal with these problems." That makes sense and can't have you hate yourself for living. Left wing morons have all kinds of problems, but never a viable solution. Principle, What principle?

10/12/2007 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

So, we've found ourselves, after the "end of history", facing an existential conflict with Islamic fundamentalism. That's a pressing problem.

But to defeat that requires a willingness to endure and commit violence, and committing violence seem like an evolutionary retreat for post-modern Westerners. They're more civilized than that.

So what better thing to do than to switch the global focus from the defeat of a violent ideology to the preservation of Mother Nature?

There's no blood in this replacement war - no Abu Ghraib or Gitmo. No setbacks, no enemy with ugly surprises - just us.

Children can fight the global warming war by telling mommy and daddy to buy a hybrid car.

Celebrities can fight this new war by instructing their fans to wipe their bums with their sleeves.

Who wouldn't want to switch over to this new "existential" conflict?

10/12/2007 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

bob hawkins,

Has anyone else noticed that, if you apply the precautionary principle to the precautionary principle, it tells you not to apply the precautionary principle to anything else?

Of course. Because once you admit not dealing with knowledge at all, or even with probability, but with speculatation pure and simple then there is no way to decide the worth of anything.

There are some things whose cost/benefit we can calculate with meaningful precision. Robert Mayer talks about the lack of water. We can calculate the net benefit for spending money on that as opposed to preventing Global Warming on the "precautionary principle".

But if you want something bigger, something dramatic enough to build a cause around: how about this? There's probably a chance greater than zero that monstrous aliens exist in outer space; and the precautionary principle would suggest we prepare space defenses now. Now it might make some sense to allocate some resources to that contingency. Monitor the heavens and so on. But are the known probabilities sufficient to justify spending trillions on anti-alien defenses just now? How would we know how much was enough? The precautionary principle by itself doesn't give much guidance.

If that sounds too far fetched, here's something a little more practical. The chance a huge asteroid might hit earth with catastrophic results can be calculated with some credibility because it has apparently happened before so the likelihood of future events can be roughly calculated. The US probably leads the world in intercepting exo-atmospheric objects with projectiles from earth. So does that mean the US should get a Nobel Peace prize for missile defense research? If so, why not? Apart from pure bigotry?

10/12/2007 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I think the Nobel committee(s) have demonstrated over and over again the past few years that their selections are made with one goal only in mind: what would make Bush and/or America look bad.

I don't think this bunch of Norwegians give a tinker's damn about either peace or global atmosphere. They looked around until they could find a suitable candidate that would stick it to the President, and then they gave it to him.

With the resultant spin that the position that Mr. Gore currently holds is that of an ex-Vice President, an Oscar winner AND a Nobel Prize Winner so, ipso facto, he must be more important globally and to all of humanity than a mere picayune President of the United States.

Makes you sort of want to drop a bomb on 'em just to see if they're awake and cognizant of logical reality.

10/12/2007 10:33:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...


The precautionary principle leads to wonders like the Citadelle Henri Christophe, a fortress responsible for the deaths of thousands of men -- those who built it.

10/12/2007 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger Clioman said...

Gore's award has little to do with peace. It speaks to what is becoming the principle religious impulse of the secularists. It allows them to be fervent in public; it simulates piety with considerable fidelity; and it encourages them to feel morally superior to 'unbelievers.' As long as their numbers are small, it's an interesting spectacle; wherever they acquire the beginnings of political power -- a school board, a land use committee, a homeowners ass'n -- the seeds of oppression are sown.

10/13/2007 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger F said...

My bet is that Nahncee has it right: this award is meant as a slap at Bush II. That's not all of it, though -- it's also a slap at Clinton. Think about it: Carter got a Peace Prize as a slap at Bush II, and the natural evolution of that effort would have been to award it this year to Clinton as another slap at Bush II. But they did not do so -- clearly even their very poorly developed gag reflex wouldn't tolerate that example -- so they gave it to his VP, Gore. Of course, the fact that Gore had recently won an Oscar and an Emmy gave them some cover for what is clearly a preposterous choice, but fundamentally this is a slap at Bill Clinton. As such it is a purely political gesture, an anti-American one at that, and only serves to cheapen the price that much more. After Arafat, Carter and Gore, who cares any more who wins it? F

10/13/2007 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I wonder how much money the ex-Veep will win as a consequence, and what he'll choose to do with it.

10/13/2007 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Perhaps the best source of carbon-dioxide free electricity generation would consist of hooking up a turbogenerator to Alfred Nobel's corpse as he spins in his grave.

The Nobel prize, named after a technological innovator, has been awarded to a neo-Luddite who once declared that the internal combustion engine posed a greater threat then world terrorism.

Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal makes a salient point:
if you look at the list of Nobel Peace Prizes, you'll see that in recent years it has often gone to people or organizations whose work, while often worthy, has little to do with the promotion of peace per se. Last year the prize went to a Bangladeshi banker and a bank for their efforts to make credit available to the very poor. In 2004, it went to Wangari Maathai for planting trees in Kenya.

One reason for this may be that the Norwegian Nobel Committee has had reason to be disappointed in the results when it has given awards to more traditional peacemakers.

In 1994, the Nobel Peace Prize notoriously went to Yasser Arafat (along with Israel's prime and foreign ministers) for signing the Oslo accords--which, far from establishing peace, enabled Arafat to set up a terror statelet in the West Bank and Gaza.

In 1973, the Nobel went to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam's Lu Duc Tho for negotiating the Vietnam peace accord--which, far from establishing peace, led to conquest, repression and mass murder in Indochina.

In 1926, 1930 and 1931 the Nobel Peace Prize went to men involved in the Briand-Kellogg Pact, which "outlawed war." By 1939 it was clear how well that was working out.

When the Nobel Peace Prize was established more than a century ago, wars were largely fought between traditional nation-states over material interests. But the 20th century saw the rise of a series of aggressive ideologies--communism, Nazism, radical Islam--that render old-fashioned notions of war and peace quaint.

Determined ideologues cannot be appeased; peace through strength is the only alternative to war.

10/13/2007 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger pst314 said...

There is no reasonable doubt that a primary motivation of the Nobel Committee is to propagandize against Bush and America, but I think that they would be inclined to award the prize to Al Gore even if Hillary were president: Like all leftists, they are inherently attracted to totalizaing ideologies which offer justifications to intrude into, and exercise minute control over, every aspect of human life--and what could offer more opportunities than the prospect of global environmental apocalypse?

10/13/2007 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger pst314 said...

Speaking of Norway, did anybody see the news that the government is threatenign to dissolve corporations that fail to put at least 40% women on their boards?

10/13/2007 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger davod said...

I would like to know who some of the other nominees are and what they were nominated for?

10/14/2007 03:41:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

davod said...
"I would like to know who some of the other nominees are and what they were nominated for?"

Davod put his finger on the real tragedy. While promoting the pope of the new religion of Global Warming, they slighted so many genuinely worthy people who actuall sacrificed to bring about World Peace.

From WSJ Opinion Journal:
In Olso Friday, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was not awarded to the Burmese monks whose defiance against, and brutalization at the hands of, the country's military junta in recent weeks captured the attention of the Free World.

The prize was also not awarded to Morgan Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara and other Zimbabwe opposition leaders who were arrested and in some cases beaten by police earlier this year while protesting peacefully against dictator Robert Mugabe.

Or to Father Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest in Vietnam arrested this year and sentenced to eight years in prison for helping the pro-democracy group Block 8406.

Or to Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Uyyouni, co-founders of the League of Demanders of Women's Right to Drive Cars in Saudi Arabia, who are waging a modest struggle with grand ambitions to secure basic rights for women in that Muslim country.

Or to Colombian President Àlvaro Uribe, who has fought tirelessly to end the violence wrought by left-wing terrorists and drug lords in his country.

Or to Garry Kasparov and the several hundred Russians who were arrested in April, and are continually harassed, for resisting President Vladimir Putin's slide toward authoritarian rule.

Or to the people of Iraq, who bravely work to rebuild and reunite their country amid constant threats to themselves and their families from terrorists who deliberately target civilians.

Or to Presidents Viktor Yushchenko and Mikheil Saakashvili who, despite the efforts of the Kremlin to undermine their young states, stayed true to the spirit of the peaceful "color" revolutions they led in Ukraine and Georgia and showed that democracy can put down deep roots in Russia's backyard.

Or to Britain's Tony Blair, Ireland's Bertie Ahern and the voters of Northern Ireland, who in March were able to set aside decades of hatred to establish joint Catholic-Protestant rule in Northern Ireland.

Or to thousands of Chinese bloggers who run the risk of arrest by trying to bring uncensored information to their countrymen.

Or to scholar and activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, jailed presidential candidate Ayman Nour and other democracy campaigners in Egypt.

Or, posthumously, to lawmakers Walid Eido, Pierre Gemayel, Antoine Ghanem, Rafik Hariri, George Hawi and Gibran Tueni; journalist Samir Kassir; and other Lebanese citizens who've been assassinated since 2005 for their efforts to free their country from Syrian control.

Or to the Reverend Phillip Buck; Pastor Chun Ki Won and his organization, Durihana; Tim Peters and his Helping Hands Korea; and Liberty in North Korea, who help North Korean refugees escape to safety in free nations.

10/15/2007 03:24:00 AM  
Blogger Jrod said...

I'm thinking the Nobel committee must have been fresh out of science prizes.

10/15/2007 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Mark: But to defeat that requires a willingness to endure and commit violence, and committing violence seem like an evolutionary retreat for post-modern Westerners. They're more civilized than that.

Which, of course, is also the simplest, and therefore the most likely (per Occam's Razor) explanation for the questions raised in Wretchard's original post. We are, after all, talking about the Nobel (Illusion of) Peace Prize, not the Nobel "Vanquish Totalitarianism By Any Means Necessary, Including Those Which Might Lead To War" Prize.

10/15/2007 04:47:00 PM  

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